Success with Acupuncture for Epilepsy

Success with Acupuncture for Epilepsy

            Acupuncture is beneficial for the treatment of epilepsy, especially since there is no known cure in Western medicine for epilepsy. Epilepsy affects about 65 million people worldwide, and a little over 3 million of them are right here in the United States. Although most cases are able to be controlled with western medications, there are many out there still struggling with these medications and keeping their seizures in check. Acupuncture alone or in conjunction with western medicine can help with those suffering from active epilepsy day to day, and with around 150,000 U.S. citizens being diagnosed with epilepsy each year, it is necessary to exhaust all options.

Epilepsy Basics

            A neurological disorder with increased abnormal electric activity in the brain causing seizures, epilepsy is fairly common but is varied in severity. The epileptic seizures can go from only a few in a year to constant uncontrolled seizures, and ironically, in between these seizures, there are usually few to no symptoms. It is diagnosed with various diagnostic tests such as EEG, blood tests, MRI, and PET scan, but if the seizures are not found to involve electrical changes in the brain, it Is not usually diagnosed as epilepsy.
Epileptic seizures are characterized by two main types of onset: focal and generalized. Generalized seizures indicate there are seizure activity happening all over the brain, whereas focal seizures are ones that originate in part or only one of the hemispheres of the brain.

Types of Epileptic Seizures:

  • Focal Onset Aware – Also known as partial seizures, are usually less than 2 minutes in duration, and the patient remains conscious while the seizure is happening. Although they are aware of their surroundings, they might not be able to respond or seem frozen. During this type of seizure, the patient can feel a wide variety of feelings like anxiety, overpowering smell, déjà vu, etc.

  • Focal Onset Impaired Awareness – Also known as complex partial seizures or temporal lobe seizures, and while it is happening, the patient is unaware of their surroundings. They may be staring or zoning out, wandering, making grunting noises, smacking their lips, or picking at their clothing. While these are also short in duration, the aftermath often will leave the patient sleepy and confused.

  • Myoclonic Seizure – Only lasting a few seconds, this type of seizure will cause the muscles to twitch. These seizures happen in epileptic patients, but can also happen to anyone.

  • Tonic Clonic Seizure – Alternatively known as a grand mal seizure causing convulsions, all over shaking, losing bladder control, stiff arms and legs, and more. Those patients who have experienced this type of seizure before, may have noticed other symptoms before the more severe symptoms begin such as vertigo, dizziness, nausea, strange smells, or weird taste in the mouth. These seizures can potentially last several minutes, and the patient will be emotional and tired afterward.

  • Absence Seizure – Also known as petit mal seizure, is where a patient will briefly lose awareness. These are caused by abnormal brain activity, and are more common in children.

  • Lennox Gastaut Syndrome (LGS) – a rare type of epilepsy that presents usually when a child is still an infant. The patient can experience tonic, atonic, and absence seizures, and may experience a multitude of seizures a day as well as learning delays from cognitive dysfunction from LGS. The cause of this rare form of epilepsy is for the most part unknown, but can be from the baby having an infection or loss of oxygen while in utero, or from abnormal brain development.
There are multiple other types of seizures that can happen amongst those with epilepsy, but can also happen to anyone such as west syndrome, refractory seizures, febrile seizures, and status epilepticus which is a true medical emergency.

Acupuncture for Epilepsy

            Epilepsy in Traditional Chinese Medicine is known as Xian Zheng, and arises due to problems in the Liver system. Too much wind in the Liver system causing the seizures. There are both Yin and Yang types of seizures, and epilepsy falls under Internal wind syndromes generally involving a total of six patterns with an internal wind invasion etiology; 3 deficiency and 3 excess.

Epilepsy TCM Patterns:

  • Excess:

    • Internal Profusion of Phlegm Fire

    • Blood Stagnation

    • Obstruction by Wind Phlegm

  • Deficiency:

    • Kidney Jing Deficiency

    • Liver Blood Deficiency

    • Liver/Kidney Yin Deficiency
Obviously when it comes to epilepsy, like most conditions, patterns can overlap or the patient can present with a combination of patterns, but most often with epilepsy the patient will generally have a dominant pattern. The goal of the acupuncture provider when treating epilepsy is to restore the flow of Qi, and gain control over seizures reducing their frequency, or ideally, altogether.

Acupuncture Points for Epilepsy:

Primary Acupuncture Points:
  • C1 Huatuo – affects sensory, motor, and patietal lobe areas of the brain

  • C2 Huatuo – innervates frontal lobe and forehead

  • SI16 – beneficial for brain issues related to circulation

  • LI18 – circulation

  • Taiyang – eye issues and temporal headaches

  • GB12 – regulate and calm the spirit, and tremors in the head
Secondary Acupuncture Points:
  • GV20

  • TH16

  • LV3

  • Tiandong
Additional Acupuncture Points for Epilepsy:
  • GB20

  • Shishencong

  • Yintang

  • DU26

  • PC6

  • LI4

  • ST36
Overall, inflammation plays a major role in epileptic seizures. Traditional acupuncture treatment along with electro-acupuncture, and auricular acupuncture can be utilized having an anti-inflammatory effect on the brain in order to reduce seizure frequency. Acupuncture treatment produces a positive effect on the parasympathetic nervous system.
According to a study in 2021, Acupuncture, Seizure Frequency, and Quality of Life in Temporal Lobe Epilepsy, it was determined that acupuncture treatment reduced the number of seizures significantly, and improved quality of life. Although more research is always welcomed and needed with acupuncture treatment for epilepsy, there is positive evidence in the benefits of acupuncture for epilepsy.

To learn more about Epilepsy, and earn 10 CEUs/PDAs, click here.